Iraq shoe thrower sentenced to three years in jail

BAGHDAD,  (Reuters) – An Iraqi reporter who hurled  his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush was convicted  of attempting to assault a foreign leader yesterday and jailed  for three years, dismaying many Iraqis who regard him as a hero.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, 30, who pleaded not guilty to the charge,  told the Baghdad court: “What I did was a natural reaction for  the crimes committed against the Iraqi people.”

Outside the courtroom, wails erupted from Zaidi’s family and  other supporters when they heard the verdict. One of his  brothers fainted and his sister Ruqaiya burst into tears,  shouting: “Down with Maliki, the agent of the Americans”.

Zaidi earned instant global fame in December when he threw  his shoes at the visiting U.S. leader, who spearheaded the 2003  invasion of Iraq, and called him a dog at a news conference.

Dhiaa al-Saadi, the head of Zaidi’s defence team, condemned  the sentence as harsh and said it would be appealed.

The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who  was standing next to Bush at the news conference and tried the  block a shoe, described the incident as a “barbaric act”.

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